PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for September, 2012

ultimate finish for amigurumi [video]

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/finish

Continuing with my plan to make video tutorials for every essential amigurumi technique, here’s the latest one: the Ultimate Finish. This is the neatest way to fasten off and close the remaining hole when you’ve finished crocheting a piece of amigurumi. Together with the invisible decrease, you’ll be able to make the bottom of your amigurumi look almost as neat as the top, with a smooth, gap-free base.

ultimate finish for amigurumi video tutorial, by planetjune

(If you already know this technique, you can skip this video, if you like – there’s nothing extra that I didn’t show you in my original ultimate finish photo tutorial – it’s just another addition to my essential crochet tutorials video library.)

And now to the video tutorial (in right- and left-handed versions, of course):

Ultimate Finish for Amigurumi (right-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Ultimate Finish for Amigurumi (left-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Note: The videos may look a little small embedded in the blog: if so, you can fullscreen them or click through to YouTube to watch them full-sized 🙂

If you enjoy my crochet tutorial videos, please help to spread the word about them, and/or subscribe to the PlanetJune YouTube channel. And let me know if you have any requests for crochet techniques you’d like me to explain in a future video tutorial!

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Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern

With the Accessory-Along crochet-along about to begin on October 1st, this was perfect timing for me to launch my latest PlanetJune Accessories design, the Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl. Two harmonising shades of yarn undulate together to create a beautiful gossamer-fine shawl with airy lightness and amazing drape.

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

The lace pattern has a 2-row repeat, so you’ll pick it up in no time and be able to enjoy crocheting without having to worry about a complicated pattern. The clever stitch pattern is worked continuously from 2 balls of yarn; there’s no fastening off between stripes, or lengths of stranded yarn to worry about hiding. You can even omit the edging and the shawl will still look good!

My lace patterns are designed to be worked with normal-sized hooks into the spaces between stitches, which means that, after the foundation row, there’s no hunting for those tiny fine loops to work into, and they are a pleasure to work.

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

As always, I include full instructions for modifying the size of the shawl in both length and width – you can make it as narrow as a scarf, or as wide as a blanket, and the length is only determined by how long you want it (and how much yarn you have available).

My shawl uses an entire 400m/50g skein of the main darker colour, and 86% of the contrast colour skein – you can see that it’s very long and a shorter version would still be ample for most people. I used a laceweight baby alpaca yarn (KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud in Foxtrot Heather and Iris Heather) which is surprisingly warm, even with such an open lacy design – I’m really going to enjoy wearing this!

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

The Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl is a versatile pattern; here are a few modification suggestions to get you started:

  • Use contrasting colours of yarn to punch up the ‘wow’ factor of the rippled stripe effect.
  • Work the design in a heavier yarn (fingering weight/sock yarns would look lovely) to give a more substantial shawl with more warmth and coverage.
  • Omit the edging, or edge with a third colour, and you’ll be able to make the most of your 2 skeins of yarn in the shawl body.
  • For a faster project, make a narrower scarf-width version.

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

I hope you’ll enjoy this shawl as much as I do! You can buy the Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl pattern individually from my shop, or buy it as part of a custom set of any three PlanetJune Accessories designs for a bargain price.

If you’re not quite ready to buy though, how about queuing it on ravelry so you don’t forget about it?

If you’d like to make this shawl, or any of my other accessory designs, I hope you’ll join us in the PlanetJune Ravelry group for the Accessories crochet-along. The CAL officially starts on October 1st, but if you can’t wait to get going, feel free to start crocheting early!

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creating an outdoor photo studio

I finished my new PlanetJune Accessories shawl design in June. The pattern was ready, the stitch diagrams were ready, the blocked and beautiful sample was ready. Only one thing remained to do before I could publish it: the cover photos.

I don’t feel comfortable here walking around by myself in a dress, carrying a (relatively) expensive camera on a tripod, and posing for photos with my back to the camera while hoping nobody is walking off with it at that very moment. I always felt safe doing that in Canada, but here it just feels like a stupid risk, and so the months ticked by with no shawl pattern…

The only solution I could see was to give up on trying for beautiful scenery – after all, the main focus of my pattern cover photos should be the shawl, not the background – and take the photos in the safety and privacy of my garden. But our garden is a scrappy mess: we’re both very busy, and gardening isn’t a high priority for either of us. (Plus, the birds and butterflies and geckos and chameleons seem to be very happy with the garden’s current state. It’s not a mess: it’s a natural wildlife garden!)

One particular wall in the garden was the most promising candidate for photos – it’s tall, wide, interestingly textured… and a complete mess. Flaking paint in 2 or 3 colours, bare areas, lichens and general grime made for a horrible dirty-looking background – not exactly the look I want people to associate with my beautiful accessories! So I gave myself a weekend project to fix up this wall:

garden wall

I scraped off all the loose paint and other bits with a wire brush, then scrubbed the entire wall with a bleach solution to get rid of the dirt and lichen. As there were areas with no paint or primer, I used an exterior primer to cover the whole surface (very slow going on such a heavily textured surface) and bring it up to bright white:

garden wall

And then I rolled on a coat of custom-tinted exterior paint. I chose this shade of green because it’s a fairly natural, neutral colour. It should also be easy to tweak in post-processing to make it yellower, brighter green, or grey, so I can customize the backdrop for each photoshoot.

garden wall

After the paint dried, I can see it has some thin areas where the colour looks paler, so it’ll need a second coat at some point. But this was a good enough finish to finally take my shawl photos – phew!

Now I’ll have plenty of photography opportunities with beautiful natural lighting in my new outdoor studio: a couple of hours of shade in the mornings before the sun peeks over the wall; late afternoons once the sun has hidden behind the mountain; plus any time the sky is cloudy-but-bright. And now I don’t need to travel to get my shots, I don’t need to worry that the weather will change while I’m en route!

This may seem like an expensive and time-consuming solution (the paint wasn’t cheap, and it took a long time to prep and prime the wall), but, given my circumstances, I think this photo-studio-in-the-garden makes a lot of sense. It isn’t perfect – of course I’d prefer beautiful scenic views to a blank wall – but at this stage I don’t have the time to hunt for locations or the energy to deal with the stress and worry involved in trying to set up and photograph there. My choices were to abandon my Accessories range simply because getting cover photos was proving too difficult, or go for a compromise. I love creating new Accessories designs, so being able to take the photos in my own garden is definitely the best solution for my current situation.

PlanetJune Accessories shawl teaser
A little teaser for the new pattern…

I think it’s really important to try to make the best of things and accept that not everything can be exactly the way you’d like it to be in an ideal world. Moving to Cape Town required some major adjustments, in my personal life, of course, but also in my business life. I’ve been here for well over a year now and I’m still struggling with some aspects of maintaining PlanetJune from a different continent – for example, just acquiring worsted weight yarn for new amigurumi designs is no easy task – so anything I can do to simplify my life and my business practices is worth it. In the end, I know what my priorities are: I can compromise on my photo backgrounds, but not on my pattern quality – and I don’t think anyone could argue with that decision!

And now I’m relieved and delighted to finally be able to say: look out for a beautiful new PlanetJune Accessories pattern, launching tomorrow! 😀

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positioning amigurumi eyes

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/eyes

Looking for options for eyes and noses? Or online eye sources? If not, read on:

Judging the best eye positions for amigurumi is a skill that doesn’t come easily to most people. I know from talking to my customers that it can be very frustrating when you’ve worked hard to make an amigurumi but it ends up with an unusual looking face and you’re not quite sure why…

amigurumi eye positions
Examples of eye positions for a realistic amigurumi dog

Before you permanently attach amigurumi eyes, as well as checking that the eyes are level with each other and not wonky, it’s also worth playing with them to make sure they are in the position you like best. In my patterns, I give guidelines for positioning the facial features to look right for each animal, but I thought I’d give a little lesson today in facial proportion that will give you a place to start for any animal (including humans).

Tip: If you’re having problems with the eye positions for an animal with a separate muzzle, it can be helpful to attach the muzzle before positioning the eyes, or at least hold the muzzle up to the face so you can judge the eye placement more carefully. As you’ll see below, the muzzle and eye positions are often closely related.

Here are my rule-of-thumb guidelines for positioning eyes on your amigurumi animals to give a realistic result. They aren’t 100% accurate for every animal, but are generally a good starting point. This is useful to know even if you aren’t looking to create realistic animals: once you know what the realistic position should be, you can easily modify it to make your animal cuter in a cartoony or kawaii way.

Eye Height

The number one mistake that most people instinctively make is to place the eyes too high (see examples 1 and 3 above). In children’s drawings of people, the eyes are usually drawn about a third of the way down the head, and this perception generally carries through into adulthood unless you’ve studied art or anatomy. Here are some rules-of-thumb to remember:

  • Place the eyes roughly halfway up the head, or very slightly higher.
  • If the animal has a muzzle, place the eyes level with the top of the muzzle.

Let’s look at these principles in action with photos of myself and my helpful assistant Maui, and then see how they look in amigurumi:

positioning facial features for amigurumi, by planetjune
The top and bottom blue lines mark the top and bottom of the head. The middle blue line is halfway between them. You can see that the eyes are always at, or slightly above, the middle blue line, and the top of the muzzle (or ‘nose’ in my case!) is also at that same level.

Eye Spacing

This is more variable: some animals have forward-facing eyes, while others have sideways-facing eyes. A pattern should tell you if you need to place the eyes on either side of the head (i.e. facing out to each side), like these:

positioning facial features for amigurumi, by planetjune

In these cases, the exact positioning is less critical, but, as you can’t easily see both eyes at once, check your animal from both the front and the top to make sure the eyes are level both horizontally and vertically before you commit to attaching the backs of your safety eyes.

If the eyes aren’t sideways-facing, there’s more chance of a positioning error. Here are the rules-of-thumb to avoid spacing problems:

  • The most common mistake is to place the eyes too close together (see examples 2 and 3 at the top of this post) – this will give your animal a confused or cross-eyed look, which doesn’t (usually) look cute. The centres of the eyes should always be separated by at least half the width of the face.
  • If the animal has a muzzle, place the eyes approximately level with each edge of the muzzle.

Let’s see some examples of these principles too:

General Spacing:
face proportions for amigurumi, by planetjune
Here the blue lines show the centre of each eye, and the green lines show the edges of the face. Note the spacing between the eyes (the distance between the blue lines) is never less than half the width of the face (the distance between the green lines).

Muzzles:
face proportions for amigurumi, by planetjune
Here the blue lines show the approximate eye spacing, which is also equal to the width of the muzzle. (I obviously don’t have a muzzle, but my eyes are spaced apart by the width of my nose, so the principle still applies!)

Adding Cuteness

Of course, you don’t have to aim for the most realistic result – you can modify the general principles to give your animals a cuter, more cartoony look. The simplest way to go from realistic to extra-cute is to use larger eyes than recommended. You can also try positioning the eyes a little lower and/or the nose a little higher. (Taking this to extremes, the Japanese ‘kawaii’ look often places the nose higher than the eyes, but you don’t have to go that far to get a cute result!)

Go and Play!

Just to be clear: it’s never wrong if you choose to make your ami differently; it’s only a problem if you’re not happy with the end result. Avoiding unhappiness is what I’m trying to achieve with these ‘rules’, but, as I said at the start, they’re only general guidelines. If a pattern has different instructions for eye placement, you should follow those instead. And, of course, if you prefer the look of the eyes in a different position, you should always feel free to do things differently.

Eyes are so important to the look of the finished amigurumi – they give it expression and personality. Positioning the eyes so their animals look their best can be tricky, and I hope the guidelines in this post will help reduce that frustration. If you haven’t been happy with your amigurumis’ faces in the past, hopefully you’ll now have an idea where you may have been going wrong, so you can try a different eye placement next time.

Take an extra minute to make sure you’re happy with your ami’s eyes before you commit to the placement: it can make all the difference between an ami that’s just not quite right and one you can be proud of!

Comments (14)

AmiDogs Rottweiler crochet pattern

It’s amazing how quickly time flies – it’s been over a year since my last AmiDogs design (the Basset Hound who accompanies my amigurumi Columbo) but, thanks to my Commissions system, it’s time to add to the collection with my 20th dog crochet pattern, AmiDogs Rottweiler.

AmiDogs Rottweiler crochet pattern by PlanetJune

With 19 dog breed designs under my belt, I thought I must have a pretty good idea of how to design a dog crochet pattern by now, but it was still a challenge to capture the Rottie’s essence. I had to set it aside for a while and work on something else until I figured out the subtle changes in shape that would make the design work. I think I finally nailed it though 🙂

AmiDogs Rottweiler crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Here are the other 19 AmiDogs breeds:



Don’t forget, if your favourite(s) are still missing, you can commission them! I’ve just added the most popular requests to the commission options, if you’d like to pledge towards any of them. If your favourites aren’t on the list, please submit your requests (through the form on the Commissions page) so I can consider adding them in the next design review. I no longer create new AmiDogs designs without a commission, so this is the only way to get your favourites made from now on.

If you know someone who loves Rottweilers, you can pick up the AmiDogs Rottweiler pattern in the shop right now. Or, if you’d like to add several dogs to your pattern collection, I recommend my AmiDogs Custom Set – you can choose any 3 dog breeds for a bargain price.

Thanks to everyone who commissioned me to make this design! Next up on the commissions list: the Giant Panda (I’ll be collecting pledge monies tomorrow) – yay!

Comments (4)

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    June Gilbank

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